On Saturday (25 June), Ethiopia marked the start of a major drive against secessionist and insurgent forces by a mass parade in the capital, Addis Ababa, of its new People's Militia.
On Saturday (25 June), Ethiopia marked the start of a major drive against secessionist and insurgent forces by a mass parade in the capital, Addis Ababa, of its new People's Militia. Regular troops also took part in the huge display.
SYNOPSIS: The new force now gives Ethiopia the third largest armed force in Africa. The new militiamen, wearing American-style uniforms and carrying Soviet-made arms, trained for several months in their villages before undergoing advanced training in a large camp near Addis Ababa.
The parade took four and a half hours to file past Ethiopian leader, Lieutenant-Colonel Mengistu Haile-Mariam. Colonel Mengistu told the parade it was surrounded by enemies. He said that just as revolutionary Russia was encircled 60 years ago revolutionary Ethiopia too was encircled by forces that were anti-people and anti-revolutionary. Colonel Mengistu said the militia would crush once and for all reactionary groups like the Ethiopian Democratic Union (EDU) and the Eritrean secessionist groups.
With a total strength approaching a hundred thousand, including those who did not march on Saturday, the militia is the biggest armed force in Africa after the Egyptian and Nigerian armies. The Provisional Military Administrative Council led by Colonel Mengistu claims that there are 300-thousand people in the militia force.
Colonel Mengistu, in his speech, accused Somalia of designs on the new republic of Djibouti, the Red Sea enclave which celebrated its independence from France on Monday (26 June). He pledged his country's strong opposition to any kind of interference with the independence and territorial integrity of the people of Djibouti. Ethiopia receives most of its supplies through Djibouti port.
Thousands of the new militiamen have now left Addis Ababa to join the fighting in southern Ethiopia, where the Ethiopian government claims Somalia has been infiltrating troops, and against Eritrean secessionists in the north.